SELF-ESTEEM: Probably one of the more complex topics out there, but I decided to tackle it today based on my own experiences.
I’m a recovering over-achiever, perfectionist, people-pleaser. Constantly chasing the next achievement, I strived for that perfect score in order to receive positive reinforcement and validation from my peers, teachers and parents. I’m sure many of you can relate!
On top of that, I regularly sacrificed my own desires, feelings and happiness to maintain harmony, keep the peace and to be the perfect friend, daughter, student, girlfriend, wife.
I honestly believed for many many many years that this was a really good thing. To be likeable, a hard worker, intelligent girl with a heart of gold. Don’t get me wrong, these are good traits! However, when the motivation for being these things stems from desperately needing that approval and validation from others, then we have a self-esteem issue.
A self-esteem issue can rear it’s ugly head many times throughout our life and in different forms. For me, mine was always brewing in the background of my subconscious and conscious mind. It drove nearly every decision I made around my social life, my school/uni/work life, and family life. It wasn’t long before this desire to achieve perfection in order to be accepted manifested in an eating disorder.
My Eating Disorder
I haven’t written too much about this on my blog, as I’ve been in the healing phase for so long. However, with each day that passes, I feel more comfortable in accepting this thing as an important lesson in my life. As I continue to make peace with it, I plan on sharing more of my experience on this blog, so please keep an eye out if it’s something of interest to you.
For me, my eating disorder recipe comprised of many different ingredients, including body dissatisfaction stemming back to preschool, an unrealistic expectation to look attractive and fit in, a new found passion for exercise (read excessive exercise), an addiction to eating only a strict list of healthy foods, and a belief that socialising with others meant sacrificing my healthy eating plan and the strong desire afterwards to correct the damage.
My wake up call came in the form of a number of hormonal issues, including amenorrhea (leading to the PCOS diagnosis), hypothyroidism (leading to unexplained weight gain – my worst nightmare!) and adrenal fatigue. Following a path of natural and alternative physical healing, along with psychological and emotional assistance, I slowly recovered.
My Healing Journey
I wholeheartedly believe that my healing journey was fast tracked when I realised that these issues stemmed from my lack of self esteem. It seems logical right?! However, I was absolutely certain that it was all about the food! Self esteem isn’t one of those things that changes overnight, so by slowly practising acts of self love, learning to speak my truth, and learning how to say no when I need it, I was headed in the right direction. In terms of some other elements to my healing journey, I would rate mindfulness right up there. But more on this another time.
Striking the Balance
When you finally strike that balance between satisfying your own needs, based on your truth, and loving others, you might find that inner peace that you have been seeking for the last 30 years (as was in my case!). However, it’s not a case of once you’ve found that balance, it’s all rosy. It still requires daily work, navigating the tightrope of speaking your truth, affirming yourself and being a supportive friend, a hard-working employee, a loving daughter and a committed life-partner. Negotiation, compromise and sacrifice are still required at times, but the driver is not to receive acceptance, but to express our love for others.
I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. – Brené Brown
For further reading, check out this guest post from Rachelle Hawken on Body Love.
If you are suffering with an eating disorder, please take the gigantic step to seek professional help. I worked closely with a psychologist to assist with my healing journey. For further information, visit The Butterfly Foundation.